The hard work was my doing the trigonometry for the three-dimensional paper-craft gnomon and writing a perl script that generates a pdf file for a particular location. But with the script written, you should be able to print out a sundial from the generator on my website and construct it in fifteen minutes.
Ingredients and tools:
- Two sheets of paper, ideally cardstock or some other heavy stock.
- Paper glue (I use Aleene's)
- Something pointy, e.g., a pen with no ink or a small screwdriver
- Computer with internet access, PDF viewer, and printer
You can load the PDF file into a vector drawing application like Inkscape and make it fancier. Just make sure that if you resize the dial, you resize the gnomon (the pointer) in the same proportions. The script is open source so you can modify it as you see fit.
You can presumably trace the printout on copper sheets to make a fancier dial and gnomon. I'd love to see it.
This would make a good classroom project at various levels, depending on how deep you get into explaining how it works.
Note: The script currently works for latitudes between 24 degrees (north or south) and 65 degrees (north or south). (That covers all of the contiguous 48 states in the U.S., much of the populous parts of Canada and Europe, all of South Africa, much of India, etc.) The limitations are due to the way the gnomon is designed to work both when shadows are short and when they are long, and its having a wider base.
Step 1: Enter the data
- your zip code (if you're in the US) or latitude/longitude (this site should help)
- your timezone
- whether your location has daylight savings time (time change between winter and summer time).
Print both pages of the PDF file, ideally on heavy paper, e.g., card stock.
Step 3: Score the gnomon
The gnomon is on the second page of the pdf file and has five dashed/dotted lines (depending on your color choices, they may be hard to see; you might want to put a black and white version on screen for references). The lines that have only dashes (_ _ _ _ _ _ _) are valley folds--you will fold so that the dashed line is at the bottom of the crease. The lines that have dashes and dots (_ . _ . _ . _ .), i.e., the central line and the lines for the outside flaps, are mountain folds--you will fold so that the dashed and dotted line is at the top of the crease.
Before folding, however, you need to score all the fold lines to make an accurate gnomon. To do that, use a ruler and draw over them with a pointy object, like a small sharp screwdriver. Try to remember which lines are mountain and which are valley folds or have the PDF file on your computer screen for reference, since the scoring may make it hard to see the dots and dashes.
After scoring, cut out the gnomon's outer edges. (I find it easier to score before cutting.)
Step 4: Fold and glue the gnomon
Start by folding the gnomon in half along the central mountain-fold line, and pressing the halves together (photo 1). Make the halves line up nicely.
Then fold back (in the opposite direction to the first fold) along the next two lines, which are valley-fold (photo 2).
Next, carefully glue together the two triangles on either side of the central mountain-fold line, up to the valley-folds you just did (photo 3). Don't use too much glue--you want a very flat and straight joint. Wait for the glue to set a bit before the next step. If you want the gnomon to be stronger, you can embed a wire extracted from a wire-tie along the crease.
Finally, you have two small flaps which will be used to glue the gnomon to the triangular (or, more precisely, diamond-shaped) area on the dial. They are attached with mountain folds--crease them so they join up but do not overlap (photo 4).
Step 5: Attach and adjust gnomon
Optionally, for more precise alignment, you can first cut out the "Gnomon sizer" triangle. Then while the glue on the gnomon flaps is still tacky, play with adjusting the exact gnomon height (it goes up if you move the flaps slightly together and down if you move them slightly apart). The gnomon height should be the same as the height of the "Gnomon sizer" triangle (with the word "Gnomon sizer" being horizontal), and the distance from the center of the dial to where the tip of the gnomon overhangs should be the same as the length of the sizer.
Step 6: Aligning the dial
The simplest way to align is simply to look at a watch and turn the dial until the shadow shows the correct time. (You may also want to do an Equation of Time adjustment when reading the time shown on the dial--see the next step. Also, make sure you make a daylight savings adjustment if the dial is not printed for the current season's time.) There are other methods. You can use a magnetic compass and correct for magnetic declination, as described in my other sundial Instructable. Or you can wait for night and align with the north star. I just used the fact that I already had one large aligned sundial.
Step 7: Reading the sundial
For greater precision, you can add the number of minutes indicated in the correction table for a date close to your current date. This is an Equation of Time correction that every sundial needs to make. If you aligned and leveled the dial well (mine wasn't that well aligned--the excellent match with time in photo 1 was probably a fluke; in photo 2, I had the dial--actually a different copy of the dial--in a slightly different location).
And of course you may need to add or subtract an hour to correct for Daylight Savings--if you used the right Daylight Savings option when entering data into the script, there will be a reminder printed on the dial--since the earth doesn't know about Daylight Savings and doesn't change its rotation to suit.
Note that the script that produced the dial adjusts for where your longitude lies within a time-zone--it shows your time-zone time, not local solar time. (For instance, solar noon is at about 12:30 pm winter time and 1:30 pm summer time at my location.)
Finally, you can always use the sundial in reverse, as a solar compass. Just align it so it's level and shows the correct time, and it'll point you north or south. However, be careful, since the sundial is set for your particular latitude and longitude.